Kids Time Traveler Track

Kids Time Traveler Track


Have you ever wondered?

What were kids like back when…

…Computers hadn’t been invented yet?
…Cars were new on the scene?
…Boys and girls dressed exactly alike?
What did they wear, play with, and like to do? Check out the Kids Time Traveler below to find out!


1880 >> 1900 >> 1920 >> 1940 >> 1960 >> 1980 >> 2011!


1880s & 1890s

The kids in these pictures lived about 120-130 years ago!

They would have played with things like spring-driven toys, and Jacob’s Ladders, which is a series of wooden squares held together with ribbon that seems to magically move on its own.

At this time, education and playtime for girls was focused on activities around the house, like cooking and making clothes.

Alice in Wonderland had recently been written, and many girls were dressed to look like Alice! What are the girls wearing that remind you of Alice’s dress and apron?

(Original Illustration (1865), by John Tenniel)

Boys and girls both wore cotton dresses with bows, pleats and ruffles and lace collars! In fact, One of these kids is a boy… can you tell which one?

Slightly older boys wore knee-length pants until age of 12, when long pants were finally allowed!

Now take a look at some family portraits! What do you find most interesting about these pictures?

Pay special attention to the boys in the picture on the left. In 1886, children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett published her book Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which a boy wore a suit of velvet and lace, much like the boys in this picture!

What book, TV or movie characters do you see on kids’ clothes today?   


1900s & 1910’s

The kids in these pictures lived about 100 years ago!

They would have played with things like Erector (Building) sets, Tinkertoys, and Lincoln Logs! They also like the new “Teddy Bear”  invented in 1903, and sang songs we still know today, like London Bridge and Farmer in the Dell!

They also did chores to help out their parents at home. Chores included things like:

  • sweeping floors
  • beating rugs
  • washing clothes in a tub
  • cutting & carrying firewood
  • pumping water outside and carrying it into the house
  • feeding  farm animals & making hay in the country

Which of the children above are doing chores? What are they doing?

What types of toys are the children playing with?

Parents could order clothes by mail, and for the first time, there was a selection just for kids! Many less wealthy people still sewed their own clothes from patterns & kits.

Do you order clothes from a magazine today? What is the modern equivalent of magazine ordering… think computers!

At this time, several new foods were invented that we still like today   – ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy, and  iced tea!

What are your favorite foods? Do you think these kids ate the same things you eat?


1920s & 1930s

The kids in these pictures lived about 80 years ago!!!

They played with toys trucks, cars and planes, and loved the new candy craze, Pez Dispensers!!  Some kids still had to work to help support their families, though school was becoming more encourage. It was at this time when educators first told parents that students must wear a new outfit on the first day of school.


Children were encouraged to choose their own clothes!

Do you choose what you’ll wear every day?

In the 20’s, the most popular style was a ‘flapper dress’ for girls as young as 7. It was a much shorter style than ever before, —up to the knees! Very young girls wore rompers- a one piece short sleeve top with bloomer pants.

Do you think clothes at this time were more comfortable or less comfortable than for girls in the past? 

For young boys- overalls and sailor suits were the normal attire.

Do you wear overalls or sailor suits today?

In the 30s, Shirley Temple was becoming a famous name for her movies that had a lot of singing and dancing. Little girls loved to play with 1930s Shirley Temple Dolls.  Mickey Mouse, Superman and Popeye also came on the scene!!!

Do you watch any of those characters today?

The 30s were a hard time in America because of the Great Depression. Many families were quite poor and couldn’t afford to buy luxuries. Those families only bought the food, clothing and shelter they needed.

If you could only afford one luxury, like a toy, what would you choose?

1940s & 1950s

The kids in these pictures lived about 60 years ago! Many may still be around today… how hold would they be now?

In the 40s, America was fighting in World War II, so money and food were scarce! Many people knitted their own socks and hats,  and grew food in Victory Gardens.

Do you eat food from a garden? If you planted your own garden, what would you want to grow?

In the 1950s, the war was over and America was into having fun!

What are the kids in the pictures doing for fun? Is it the same or different from the ways we have fun today?

The kids in the upper right picture are at school!

Compare this classroom to yours- how are they the same, and how are they different?

Clothes also began to change because people had more money to spend on new styles.

Look at the boy on the left. What is he wearing that is still very popular today?

Barbie Dolls were invented in 1959. Candy Land, Tonkas, Slinkies, Mr. Potato Head, Silly Putty, Matchbox cars, hula hoops, Frisbees and the game Clue were also on the market!

What are your favorite toys and games? Are any from the 1940s and 1950s?

1960s & 1970s

These pictures were taken about 40 years ago. How old would these kids be today?

These kids liked to play with things like the Etch-a-Sketch, Easy Bake Oven, Troll Dolls,
Rubrik’s cube, and games like Twister!


New materials for clothes were invented, like Lycra and Corduroy! Girls could now wear pants whenever they pleased, and their dresses could be very short!

Unlike in the past, girls began to wear sporty styles, like boys wore.

How is the girl on the bicycle dressed? What parts of her outfit tell you that she is dressed to play and have fun?

1980s to Today

Over the past thirty years, kids have had a lot of choices! All kinds of toys, games, clothes, and new things to try are everywhere!

In the 1980s, Characters like Rainbow Bright, the Care Bears, and Punky Brewster were popular!

Bright colors and patterns were the thing to wear! Girls wore their hair naturally, and wore loosely fitting shirts and dresses.

How many different patterns can you find on the girls’ clothes in these photos?

In the 1990s and 2000s, Characters like the Power Rangers, Transformers, My Little Pony, and many more have been popular. Kids began to wear more clothing with TV and movie characters on them as well.

Do you have any clothes with characters on them? Why do you like to wear them?

The two boys on the right side are posing on their first day of school in 2010.

Did you wear something special on your first day of school? Do you like to dress in similar clothes as your brothers, sisters or friends? Why or why not?

Look at each picture carefully.

What are the kids in these photos doing for fun?

What is your favorite thing to do for fun?

Come to the Western Reserve Historical Society to learn and play in   and learn more about kids from the past!!

Sills, Leslie. From Rags to Riches: A History of Girls Clothing in America. Holiday House. 2005.
Harris Dalrymple, Priscilla. American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs. Dover: New York. 1991.
Schott, Jane A. Children of a New Century. Picture the American Past series. Carolrhoda Books:Minneapolis. 1999.


WRHS Collections
Modern photographs courtesy of  S. Hulbert and K. Snyder Families